One of my favorite meals is Southern style smothered porkchops.
It's a fantastic combination of reasonably lean meat (bone-in porkchops), caramelized onions1, and a thin gravy. You can serve over rice, and with a side of greens for extra authenticity. It reheats well, so perfect for leftovers!
1Be warned that the caramelized onions are fantastic after their second cooking in meat juice, so make extra to prevent squabbles. it's hard to make too much.
Step 1: Ingredients
6-10 thick-cut, bone-in pork chops
6-10 large onions
handful of garlic
2 Tbsp butter
salt (or seasoned salt)
a few pinches of cornstarch
1/2 c flour
~2 c boiling water
large heavy-bottomed fry pan
tongs, fork, spoon, or other cooking/flipping/stirring implement
large baking pan
cover, or aluminum foil
Step 2: Brown Porkchops
Heat your heavy fry pan, and grease with a bit of butter, lard, or neutral oil.
I used a big cast iron pan, which is really perfect for this job. A stainless steel pan will be fine as well, but stay away from non-stick pans - you really want some of that nice fond (Maillard reaction browning product) to stick and hang out in the pan for later.
Since raw supermarket pork can be suspicious, here's my stay-clean handling technique:
Designate one hand to get covered in pork (preferably your non-dominant hand) and the other to stay clean and handle the seasonings. Pick up a porkchop, and sprinkle one side with salt (or season salt), pepper, and a bit of cornstarch. Rub the cornstarch around with your meat-covered thumb, then place the porkchop seasoned-side down in your pan. Repeat with more porkchops, tiling them to fit the surface of your pan.
Now that they're safely in the pan, sprinkle the exposed unseasoned side of the porkchops and use your meat-covered hand to rub it in.
Wash hands, then grab the tongs and flip the porkchops when they're starting to brown. You're not cooking them through (there's an oven stage for that), just producing a nice tasty brown surface on each face.
When you've browned both sides, transfer the chops to a baking dish and repeat the process with more porkchops. This shouldn't take too long, so it's fine to just keep them sitting on the counter as you continue cooking. Cover with foil if you need to keep flies, fingers, or pet noses away.
Step 3: Brown Onions
Remember how I said the onions are the best part? You'll want about one large onion per pork chop to get the ratios right.
Chop the heads and tails off, and remove the peel. Cut the onion in half from top to bottom, then flip each half flat-side down and cut ~1/4" slices to create lots of nice half-circles.
Turn the pan to about 1/3 heat, add a bit more butter/lard/oil to your pan if necessary, and dump in the onions in handfuls. Add a dash of salt to help them soften more quickly. They'll cook down quite a bit, so don't worry if they don't all fit in the pan at first go.
Step 4: Make Gravy
Once your onions are nicely browned and starting to caramelize, it's time to make the gravy.
Shake the flour in evenly, stirring to mix. (I've used 1/3 cup flour for this volume of onions.) You're basically making a roux on top of the onion mixture - you want to incorporate the flour into your buttery onions, and let it brown gently. Turn down the heat, if necessary, to prevent sticking and burning.
Meanwhile, get yourself a several cups of hot (possibly boiling) water. (I just ran the electric kettle while stirring in the flour - you could have started a pot/kettle on the stove while the onions were cooking, or microwaved a pyrex measuring cup full of the stuff. Whatever you've got.)
When the flour has browned and is starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, pour in the hot water and stir vigorously. You should achieve a thick stew-like consistency, like you see in the last picture below.
Step 5: Combine and Bake
Pour the onion mixture over the porkchops, making sure it works down into the nooks and crannies.
Cover the pan with foil, and put it into a 350F oven for about an hour. The onion mixture will start to bubble, and you should be able to see it browning through the sides of a clear container. After 45 minutes test the porkchops with a fork - they should be tender and about ready to fall apart. If not, cook a bit longer!
After the porkchops pass the fork test, remove the cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes so the surface browns slightly, then remove and serve hot.
Step 6: Serve
Let the pork chops cool down for 5-10 minutes so they shift from "molten lava" to "nice and hot" before serving.
Pork chops are good served over rice with greens, or next to mashed potatoes or salad; in fact, they go with most any side or vegetable, southern-style or not. Just be sure to allow for extras, as people will likely want more than one. Another reason to make extra: porkchops reheat well, and make great leftovers if you can protect them from the starving hordes.
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